I’m venturing out of my comfort zone for this post today. Vulnerable, messy, flaw-ridden….just to name a few of the emotions I’m feeling right now as I type this. Lately, I’ve had a bit of a revelation of sorts when it comes to nutrition. I have tried lots of different methods to test them out to see if they’re valid and valuable for clients. Carb cycling, intermittent fasting, macro counting, calorie counting, etc. I’ve tried most of it over this past year. However, recently I’ve been in a funk with my own nutrition. I like tracking macros, but it was becoming unhealthy for me. I think tracking macros is a good tool if you’re just starting out and you want to see what your eating habits and patterns are. I, however, was too reliant on the numbers and found that I had not listened to my body’s cues in a long time. I was letting MyFitnessPal control me and tell me when and what to eat. That is not healthy. My stomach felt full and uncomfortable most of the time and I never felt hungry. I was just constantly trying to eat enough to ‘fit the numbers’ even when I was full. I have even gained some weight the past few months I think due to some bad habits that I’ve developed. I do think some of that weight is muscle since I’ve been lifting very consistently, but some of my tighter pants are telling me it’s not all muscle. In hopes to reset my system a little and re-learn my body’s cues, I decided to go back to intuitive eating (I did this before I had my daughter). I know, I know…’but you’re a trainer, shouldn’t you already know how to eat intuitively?’. ‘Don’t you train people on how to eat properly for their body?’ These are the same thoughts that have been running through my mind the past few weeks. I felt like a failure and that I had no right to educate other people when I don’t even have my nutrition all together. But then I stopped those negative thoughts and said instead, ‘I’m human and I make mistakes and other people need to see that.’ I hope that by being vulnerable with my audience and expressing my journey, other people can relate. I’m hoping other people can relate to mindless, late-night snacking, or excessive afternoon snacking, or weekend binging, or feeling the need to ‘clean the plate’ even though you’re full before the plate is empty, or sneaking snacks off your toddler’s plate out of habit and not hunger….I struggle with all these things! I’m hoping that by sharing this, someone else understands that it’s normal and not shaming to experience these things. I decided to try intuitive eating to really re-train myself to listen to my bodily cues. Eat only when hungry, stop when I’m full…pretty basic right? Easier said than done for someone who has developed unhealthy eating patterns. I journaled my journey into intuitive eating for 7 days. I had good days and bad days but I hope it’s valuable to see the vulnerability when trying new things. So without further ado….
7 Days of Intuitive Eating
Here I go…again. Last time I tried this I failed miserably and felt overwhelmed and needlessly frazzled by the process. This time I have a plan going in. I have certain ‘rules’ that I’m going to try and abide by (yes, I know ‘intuitive eating’ is about getting rid of the rules, but I need these to at least start down this journey). My ‘rules’ are…eat only when your are genuinely hungry. Not when it’s ‘meal time’ or because other people are eating, or because you haven’t eaten in a while. Eat only when you are hungry. This includes stopping intermittent fasting. I think that has been putting too much stress on my body and even when I ate my max calories, I was always hungry before my eating window so I actually stopped that this week. Within just a couple of days I feel SO.MUCH.BETTER. No more morning headaches, no more being starving until lunch and then over eating and feel uncomfortably stuffed afterwards. I had no idea stopping IF would make my head feel so clear. I think it’s a great tool for some people, but like everything, it’s not for everyone and it’s not for me.
The next one is to stop eating off of Madeleine’s plate. This is just a habit I need to break. I’m always stealing snacks and bites off of her plate and it needs to stop. Next is to focus on protein intake every time I eat. After yesterday’s ‘test run’, I feel like this will help maintain fullness. My next rule is to not snack too much before dinner. I tend to hit a wall at about 4pm and snack out of boredom. I would like to try and focus on only eating if I’m hungry during that time. Late night snacking is also something I need to work on. Dinner usually fills me up and then I eat out of boredom at 9 or 10, when I really should just go to bed.
Today felt good. I realized that I really don’t get hungry that often. If I’m really listening to my body, I don’t get hungry until about 11 or 12, and a small lunch will fill me up for several hours before I need a snack. This has worked out well though because I’ve found I feel good enough to workout in the afternoon and then I’m ready for a snack afterwards (good window from my workout, and I’m hungry for it). We went out for lunch today and normally I would use that as an excuse to eat something unhealthy, but I ordered a simple grilled chicken salad off the ‘healthier option’ menu. My biggest win today was that I didn’t finish the salad. When I felt full, I stopped eating it. Normally, I would have eaten the whole thing just to ‘clean the plate’. I felt full and stopped before it was clean! Amazing! I felt full until dinner time. I didn’t eat anything after dinner, which really helped my stomach feel better when I went to bed.
Today was ok. I did focus on protein and only eating when I was hungry. I did notice that my stomach felt flatter this morning that usual probably because I didn’t eat after dinner last night (but didn’t go to bed hungry). Tonight after dinner we had cake for Madeleine’s birthday and I ate one piece plus a little bit of an extra piece. I probably didn’t need that extra piece, but it tasted good and I was full but not uncomfortable when I went to bed. I also entered my calories (at the end of the day) into MyFitnessPal and although I felt full, my calories were only around 1400. Not very much at all! More protein and veggies really fills my stomach up!
Today was interesting. I felt a kind of peace and relaxation from this intuitive eating. I have noticed that past few days, that I’ve really had to focus on when my body is hungry and full. It’s hard for me to tell since I’ve been eating according to what time it was or when everyone else was eating instead of listening to my own hunger cues. I’ve realized eliminating afternoon snacks has really been helped me be hungry around dinner time. This is a huge win because I haven’t been ‘hungry’ for dinner in a while because I snack too much in the afternoon. But I still ate dinner because it was time, meaning I usually felt over-stuffed. Now that I’m actually hungry for dinner, I find myself enjoying it more than before. I’m also eating slower which helps me not overeat as well. Today I enjoyed more snacks that I probably should have. We had Madeleine’s party so I ate breakfast a little before I was hungry but then didn’t eat anything until lunch. I felt pretty full after lunch time and didn’t eat again until right before dinner when I was really hungry. I think I snacked too much before dinner but still tried not to fill up. I had a piece and a half of the chicken pot pie for dinner, which was too much. I didn’t need that ‘half’ piece. I was too full afterwards. Tomorrow will be a new day, though, so I will focus on eating only when I’m hungry and not snacking before dinner. I’m not going to enter my food into MyFitnessPal today as that probably isn’t healthy. I have found myself wanting something and thinking ‘oh I need to check MFP to see if it’ll fit’. Then I catch myself and say nope, don’t need to track it. Just make sure it has protein and a veggie in it.
Real talk. Today was a failure. Stomach was uncomfortable all day so it was hard to tell if I was actually hungry or not. We also ate out and made hot wings for dinner (bad planning on my part) so too much food was eaten today and my stomach hurt when I went to bed. Did NOT feel good! Need to to remember this uncomfortable feeling next time I want to keep eating something just because it tastes good, not because my stomach is hungry.
Today was definitely better than yesterday. Ate only when I was hungry. We went to Costco and I didn’t finish the samples that I didn’t like when normally I would’ve eaten all of it just because it was there. That was a win. Lunch was a bit big but I left some food in the bowl. My afternoon snack was a a little big as well and I felt a bit full afterwards but I didn’t snack until dinner time so that’s another win. I’m trying to focus on the little wins each day as they help me build a bigger picture of healthy eating for myself.
Today went well. Ate when I was hungry. Didn’t snack excessively. I was a bit hungrier than usual so I had two snacks this afternoon instead of just one and was still hungry for dinner. I’m finding that because I’m worrying less about when and what to eat (just listening to my body) I’ve been very productive this week. Much more energy, and I can slowly start to feel the stress leave me. I was stressed out in the beginning because it was so hard for me to not rely on MyFitnessPal for what I was ‘allowed’ to eat. However, now I think I’m finally feeling the relaxation and calm that people say they feel when they ignore all the rules and just listen to their bodies.
Well, we’re 7 days into this thing and I think it’s here to stay. I still find myself trying to calculate the macros and calories in my foods, so I have to quickly remove that thinking. I’ve been recording at the end of the day just to see my caloric amount and if I was getting enough protein. Turns out, I got pretty close to my protein goal each day and my calories still stayed under 1800-2000. Seems like when I listen to my body, I actually fuel it pretty well. I didn’t snack after dinner tonight since I was full and satisfied. Also, tried to focus on working and not on being bored which usually leads to late night snacking.
I’ve surprisingly learned more about myself this week than anticipated. I realized that I don’t get as snacky as I think I do. I used to constantly snack from about 3pm on and after really listening to my body and focusing on only eating when I’m hungry, I’ve found I definitely don’t need as many snacks as I think. I also learned that I fill up faster and on less food than I realized. I haven’t finished most of dishes this week as I found myself getting full before the plate was empty. For me, that’s a win to not ‘clean the plate’ just because. However, I’m also realizing that I need to serve myself less food than I usually do. I can always get more if I’m still hungry, but usually I don’t need a second helping. I usually get full off of very little if it’s full of protein and vegetables.
I’m glad I set this little challenge for myself, and I’m excited to continue. I have had more energy this past week and been more clear-headed and more productive. I don’t know if that’s because there was less stress from not tracking or because I wasn’t constantly in the kitchen I was focused on other things but I’m sure intuitive eating and listening to my body is definitely connected to my energy and motivation level. I hope by sharing this, that other people will be able to relate and maybe throw the rule book out of the window for a short time to see if intuitive eating works for them.
If you have any questions about my little ‘intuitive eating experiment’ or are curious to try it yourself, please leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time!